Leveraging Public Relations for Brand Amplification

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In today's hyper-competitive business landscape, where consumer attention is a precious commodity, small to medium-sized e-commerce businesses often find themselves struggling to stand out amidst the noise. This is where the strategic use of public relations in marketing can play a pivotal role in brand amplification. Public relations (PR) is not just about crisis management and press releases; it's a potent tool that can help e-commerce businesses build brand credibility, enhance their reputation, and create lasting connections with their target audience. In this article, we'll explore the power of public relations in marketing and provide real-world examples of companies that have successfully employed PR strategies to give their brand a significant boost.

The Essence of Public Relations in Marketing

Public relations is the art of crafting and maintaining a positive image for a brand or organization in the eyes of the public. When integrated into a comprehensive marketing strategy, PR can be a game-changer for e-commerce businesses. Here's how:

  • Builds Credibility: In a world where consumers are inundated with marketing messages, building trust and credibility is crucial. PR allows you to showcase your expertise, share valuable insights, and position your brand as an industry authority through media coverage, guest articles, and expert opinions. Since PR involves publicity from an outside party, it can be 90% more effective than advertising, where your brand is promoting itself.
  • Creates Buzz: Generating excitement around your brand is a key aspect of marketing success. PR can help you create buzz through well-timed press releases, influencer partnerships, and event participation, capturing the attention of your target audience.
  • Humanizes Your Brand: E-commerce businesses often struggle with establishing a personal connection with customers. PR enables you to humanize your brand by sharing stories about your company's journey, values, and the people behind the scenes.
  • Expands Reach: Through PR efforts, you can tap into media outlets and platforms that your target audience frequents. This expanded reach can drive more organic traffic to your e-commerce website and boost brand visibility.

Real-World Examples

Let's delve into some real-world examples of e-commerce businesses that have harnessed the power of public relations in their marketing strategies:

1. Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club disrupted the shaving industry with its subscription-based model and quirky marketing campaigns. While their viral video ads played a significant role in their success, their PR strategy was equally important. By sharing their unique story of challenging industry giants, Dollar Shave Club garnered extensive media coverage. Their witty press releases and founder interviews showcased their brand personality and resonated with their target audience.

Dollar Shave Club’s viral video crashed the company’s server in one hour and led to 12,000 orders in 48 hours.

2. Warby Parker

Warby Parker, an online eyeglasses retailer, used public relations to build their brand known for fashionable yet affordable glasses. They initiated the "Home Try-On" program, where customers could select and try out frames before purchasing. This innovative approach caught the attention of media outlets, resulting in numerous features and articles from style magazines such as Vogue and GQ, garnering the brand mass name recognition. The company furthered its positive media coverage through promoting their Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program that gives glasses to those in need. The coverage not only boosted their brand visibility but also highlighted their customer-centric and community-focused approach.

Warby Parker’s innovative Home Try-On program led GQ to label the company as the “Netflix of eyewear”.

3. Glossier

Glossier, a beauty and skincare brand, has mastered the art of user-generated content (UGC) and influencer partnerships. By encouraging customers to share their experiences on social media, Glossier has created a community-driven brand image that is fueled by word-of-mouth marketing. In fact, according to CEO Emily Weiss, almost 80% of customers discover the brand through a friend’s recommendation. Their PR efforts, focused on leveraging UGC and collaborating with micro-influencers, have allowed them to reach a wider audience while maintaining an authentic and relatable brand image.

Glossier’s Instagram account features many user-generated photos like this one from Aimee Simeon (5.8K followers), senior beauty editor at Byrdie.

4. Allbirds

Ahead of its launch in 2016, Allbirds, a footwear brand, took to social media to build buzz around their product with the hashtag #weareallbirds. By communicating its unique selling proposition clearly, the company attracted many followers. They were even featured in Time Magazine on the day of their launch. Allbirds has continued to communicate sustainability as a core aspect of their identity. Their PR strategy revolves around highlighting their eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes through social media and content marketing. This commitment to sustainability has garnered media attention from environmentally conscious consumers, setting Allbirds apart in the footwear market.

Allbirds continues to focus its PR marketing strategy on showcasing their sustainability efforts.

Implementing PR Strategies for Small to Medium-Sized E-commerce Businesses

Now that we've explored the power of public relations in marketing through real-world examples, let's discuss how small to medium-sized e-commerce businesses can implement effective PR strategies:

  • Define Your Unique Story: Your brand story is the foundation of your PR strategy. It's what sets you apart and resonates with your target audience. Develop a compelling narrative that encompasses your brand's history, values, and mission. Make sure it's authentic, relatable, and aligned with your audience's aspirations. According to research conducted at Stanford, stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone. This means that a compelling brand story can help keep your company top-of-mind.
  • Target Relevant Media Outlets: Research and identify media outlets, blogs, and platforms that influence your target audience. Build relationships with journalists, editors, and influencers who cover topics relevant to your industry. Reach out to them with personalized pitches that showcase your expertise and explain why your story would be valuable to their audience. For more helpful tips on how to get earned media, check out this post from Pierre Herubel, growth marketer.
  • Create Engaging Press Releases: Press releases remain a powerful tool for sharing news and updates about your brand. Craft well-written press releases that are concise, informative, and newsworthy. Whether it's the launch of a new product, an innovative partnership, or an industry milestone, make sure your press releases tell a compelling story.
  • Craft Compelling Content: Content marketing and PR go hand in hand. Create high-quality, informative content that addresses your audience's pain points and interests. This could include blog posts, ebooks, infographics, and videos. Distribute this content through your PR efforts, positioning yourself as an industry expert.
  • Tap into Social Media: Social media is a powerful platform for PR. Share your press releases, media coverage, and insightful content on your social channels. Engage with your audience, respond to comments, and foster conversations around your brand. Social media provides a direct line of communication with your customers, enhancing your brand's accessibility and relatability.
  • Leverage Influencers: Collaborate with influencers who resonate with your brand's values and target audience. Authentic influencer partnerships can extend your brand's reach and credibility. What’s more authentic than influencers who are actually your customers? Download Famous Finder, a FREE Shopify app, to find the perfect influencers for your brand!
  • Encourage User-Generated Content (UGC): UGC is a goldmine for PR. Encourage your customers to share their experiences with your products or services on social media. Repost and share their content, showcasing real people benefiting from your brand. UGC not only builds trust but also serves as authentic social proof.
  • Host Webinars and Events: Hosting webinars, workshops, or virtual events is an effective way to showcase your expertise and engage your audience. Partner with industry influencers or thought leaders to co-host these events. This not only adds credibility but also expands your reach to their followers.
  • Embrace Social Responsibility: If your brand is committed to social or environmental causes, share your efforts through PR. Consumers today appreciate and support brands that contribute positively to society. In fact, a 2020 McKinsey US consumer sentiment survey found that over 60% of people said they would pay more for a sustainably packaged product.

As you execute these PR strategies, it’s crucial to measure their impact and understand how you’re performing. Use tools such as Google Alerts to track media mentions. Also monitor social media engagement, website traffic, and conversions. Analyze the data to understand what’s working and where adjustments are needed. Flexibility is key in refining your approach based on real-time insights.

Final Thoughts

In the competitive world of e-commerce, building a strong brand presence is essential for success. While paid advertising and digital marketing play crucial roles, public relations offers a unique avenue to amplify your brand's message and values. By strategically integrating PR into your marketing strategy, you can build credibility, generate buzz, and create a genuine connection with your target audience. Take inspiration from the success stories of Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, Glossier, and Allbirds, and tailor their PR approaches to fit your brand's identity and goals. Remember, in the digital age, effective public relations can be the differentiator that propels your small to medium-sized e-commerce business to new heights of success.

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